Should medical cannabis be legal in Utah? Advocacy group to hold petition signing event in Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE – The question of whether medical cannabis should be legalized in Utah is one that a local advocacy group wants to put on the 2018 ballot. In order to do that, however, they have to gather over 130,000 signatures from across the state.

Southern Utah residents who support the idea of medical cannabis legalization have the opportunity to sign the petition Saturday at the Hyatt Place hotel, 1819 S. 20 East, in St. George, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In this June 2017 file photo, Utah resident Doug Rice administers the CBD oil Haleigh’s Hope, a cannabis compound used by his daughter Ashley at their home in West Jordan, Utah. Utah lawmakers balked again this year at joining more than half of all U.S. states and passing a broad medical marijuana law. Rice says Utah’s approach means his daughter, who has a genetic condition, is missing out on the one drug that eliminates her frequent seizures. Utah already allows cannabidiol to be used by people with severe epilepsy, as long as they obtain it from other states. | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

With the exception of a cannabis oil extract used to treat epilepsy – which has to be obtained in states where it is legal to sell – the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes remains illegal in Utah.

As cannabis-derived oils have been found to help decrease the occurrence of seizures, advocates also claim medical cannabis can be used to help treat a plethora of maladies.

Medical conditions that would qualify for medical cannabis use via a physician’s subscription under the proposed bill include HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and autism, among other ailments.

Read more: New poll shows more than 75 percent of Utahns support medical marijuana ballot initiative

Organizers with the Utah Patients’ Coalition, the group behind the ballot initiative, have stressed that they do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Part of the bill the group is proposing maintains prohibitions on the public use of cannabis, driving under the influence of cannabis and smoking cannabis.

The ballot initiative is also a response to the belief the Utah Legislature has dragged its feet when it comes to trying to pass meaningful medical marijuana policy. For years lawmakers have tried to pass some form of medical marijuana legalization and have come up short.

DJ Schnaz, campaign director for the Utah Patients Coalition, speaks at a press conference prior to the filing of a ballot initiative calling on Utah voters to support legalizing medical marijuana in Utah, Salt Lake City, June 26, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Fox 13 News, St. George News

“We feel strongly here as patients and advocates that the time has come to help alleviate the pain and suffering of the most vulnerable in our society,” said DJ Schanz of the Utah Patients Coalition during the June 26 launch of the ballot initiative effort. “It’s time to start the process of legalizing medical cannabis.”

Read more: Medical marijuana advocates file 2018 ballot initiative

Among those who have benefited from medical cannabis use is 10-year-old Holden Cromar, son of David and Mandi Cromar, of St. George.

Holden has a rare form of epilepsy that can produce severe seizures, the boy’s father previously told St. George News during an August interview.

Read more: This St. George family hopes their child’s experience will make you think differently about medical cannabis

The Cromars attempted to treat the epilepsy with various medications and also faced the option of brain surgery at one point. Yet before taking that route, they chose to try out the CBD cannabis-extract oil made legal by the Utah Legislature in 2014.

The cannabis oil helped greatly reduce Holden’s seizures. As a result, the family ultimately moved to Colorado, where marijuana is legal for both recreational and medical use, so they could to gain greater access to the product that helped their son, David Cromar said.

Holden Cromar plays with his service dog, Toby. Holden has a rare form of epilepsy that his parents have been treating with cannabis oils, St. George, Utah, Aug. 11, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“Right away, we noticed a difference, almost like a fog had been lifted from his brain,” David Cromar said of the cannabis oil’s affect on Holden.

The family recently moved back to Utah and are big supporters of the medical cannabis ballot initiative spearheaded by the Utah Patient’ Coalition. The Cromars organized a previous ballot initiative signing event in early September. They also organized Saturday’s event.

“We already know (medical cannabis) works,” David Cromar said. “We just need access.”

The Cromars’ story is featured in the media player at the top of this article.

Advocates have also said medical cannabis can help calm patients experiencing post-traumatic stress. They also claim it is a viable alternative to opioid-based medications.

Members of the West Wendover City Council look at marijuana being harvested at Deep Roots Harvest in Mesquite, Nevada. undated | Photo courtesy of Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News, St. George News

The initiative has not come without opposition, as opponents state the claims made by medical cannabis advocates are anecdotal and lack sufficient scientific research to prove there’s any real medical benefit.

Advocates counter that enough research has been done already, but opponents choose not to recognize it as it does not have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s stamp of approval.

Widespread research has been stymied due to marijuana being classified as a Schedule I drug. Research has to be approved by federal agencies through a process that isn’t exactly known for being quick.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced legislation in mid-September that would expedite the federal approval process so more research could be done on marijuana’s touted medical qualities.

Read more: Hatch: ‘It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana

Despite federal law, medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C.

Event details

  • What: Medical cannabis 2018 ballot initiative signing event.
  • When: Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Where: Hyatt Place hotel, 1819 S. 120 East, St. George.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • LocalTourist November 17, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    I hope everyone takes a good look at these kids and remembers their faces. They deserve the chance to be kids.
    This isn’t about smoking cannabis, since smoking isnt even allowed under this ballot initiative. It’s all done under a doctor’s supervision, so the chances for abuse are minimized.

    This isn’t the big bad wolf our government tries to paint it. So get government out of our medicine cabinets.

    • AnotherReader November 17, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      @localtour, “So get government out of our medicine cabinets.” Funny, that’s exactly how medications are tested and proven safe and effective. Cannabis has not been proven either. Let it go through the process any other medication must pass through before it is made available. If there is medicinal value to any of the 600+ chemicals in cannabis, then test them, prove them, and make them available as we do any other medication. Today’s proof that it does anything of value is simply anecdotal or sketchy science at best.

      • LocalTourist November 18, 2017 at 9:09 pm

        The FDA is NOT the safety net you think it is. Consider that Vioxx killed thousands before it was withdrawn from the market. And Fen-Phen. Recently its been found Lyrica and Neurontin, two major meds for anxiety and seizures, have been found to destroy synapses in the brain. Baycol, for cholesterol, was recalled in 2001 after killing nearly 100,000 patients.
        Bottom line is, every FDA drug recall started as an FDA drug approval. And thousands have died from approved drugs…yet not a single death from cannabis. The FDA does NOT mean a drug is safe.

        And sketchy, or anecdotal? Hmmm. How many colleges have been studying this plant? University of California at San Diego, Northern Michigan University, Stanford, Harvard, University of Texas, Washington State University, University of Colorado, Georgia State, University of Utah… sounds sketchy to me, too. Dr Filloux at University of Utah commented on the pediatric study this week, saying not one patient in his study had anything remotely life threatening. Tell me what research you’re seeking that hasn’t been done?

        Those 600 chemicals in cannabis haven’t killed anybody. There is not one single example of a person dying from ingesting cannabis, in over 6000 years of human use. In order to get remotely close to a toxic level (expressed as LD50, or a Lethal Dose in 50% of people) a person would have to ingest 15 POUNDS of cannabis in under 15 minutes… theoretically possible, but not very likely.

        I’m not sure what sort of research you need to prove efficacy and safety, but we aren’t going to get it from Rep. Daw’s buddies in their private research clinics. The medical value is known and people are dying while Utah drags its feet to legalize.

        It’s time. No, it’s past time.

  • aaron November 17, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    The only reason why cannabis is not, legal here in Utah is because of the good old Mormon church. They would be much happier just like the government to take big pharmaceutical poisons instead of partaking in something natural. Such as pot the church is run by a bunch of hypocrites, they also say coffee is bad for you, but when you research it it has a lot of healthy benefits especially for people suffering with diabetes. But the church says no just go along with what your local government official says or take whatever big pharmaceutical puts out why are they ok with oxys, pain pills then what god has made naturally for us the d&c also says to eat meat sparingly but do you see a lot of members doing that no. Like I said the church is full of hypocrites, look at how the Mormon church have left the bundys high and dry over in Clark county. When they were simply fighting the overreaching feds over Land rights and trying to adhere to the constitution of the United States. Hey Mormon church stop being a bunch of hypocrites.

  • theone November 18, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Legalizing cannabis, next it will be Heroin, crack etc. just like same sex marriage leads to people marrying frogs, donkey”s and lamp posts. Where does it end?

    Oh wait, I just mimicked the Evangelic GOP. I wonder with the above they can see how stupid their values are?

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